In 1996, at the height of the lounge music craze, Capitol Records assembled the first Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails collection. The label, founded in Los Angeles in 1942 to take advantage of the emerging solo singer trend that overtook the swing big bands, had an appropriate catalog for such an album, which was duly filled with vintage recordings of holiday standards sung by such long-term Capitol signees as Peggy Lee, Lou Rawls, Dean Martin, Nancy Wilson, and Nat King Cole. The album must have been a success, since Capitol returned a year later with Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails, Pt. 2, which added the likes of Lena Horne and Wayne Newton to many returning performers. Alas, lounge music passed as a popular style, and the series lapsed until, for whatever reason, Capitol revived it in 2004, packaging the two previously released albums with a third disc and issuing it as the three-CD set Ultimate Christmas Cocktails. A year later, that third disc has been separated out and released on its own for the first time. The campy aspect of lounge is apparent immediately as Sammy Davis, Jr. duets with Carmen McRae on Frank Loesser's song of weather-impacted seduction, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (not exactly a Christmas song, it's true, but no matter). Davis, apparently determined to steal the spotlight, hams things up with odd phrasing and strange voices, sounding not so much like himself much of the time as like Jerry Lewis; he would have done better to have played it straight, but then the track might not have had that "ultra-lounge" feeling. Other songs are performed less campily, though the bass singer on Billy May's "Do You Believe in Santa Claus?" is having a lot of fun sounding low notes. Capitol is to be commended for continuing to dig up these odd gems in the name of providing good-natured holiday collections.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann